Another E3 conference fest (save for whatever Nintendo's doing tomorrow) done. Interesting as usual.†
Microsoft made it mostly about the games, but in a oddly leaden way. Miles and miles of emotional-experience shooters and only a few other games of any kind. A couple of maybe-might-be-cools and (in Sunset Overdrive) at least one example of a game that sounds fun on paper but came across as very douchebaggy. Similarly the self conscious T-shirt swapping (look at how indie I am now) and slow talking in a Moloch-The-Heavy-Judger-Of-Men vein about how we should understand the visions behind the games. On the plus side though almost nothing at all about apps or Kinect things.
EA's conference was also a very mixed bag. You're always going to get way too much sports stuff in their conference (wherein they essentially say that this time the game will be so emotional, this year is the one, etc) and lots of high concept declarations like "Golf Without Limits". There was Dragon Age, fine. There was a hint of a maybe-dunno around Mass Effect. And there were at least two hints of a thing that a studio might kinda sorta um ish be making. There was Mirror's Edge 2, about which I have dim views (the first game became a critical darling because of its aesthetics. Nonethless the main reason that the first didn't work - first person running and combat is a rather broken dynamic - stands). Then there was the cops-and-robbers version of Battlefield. Interesting idea but very weird branding choice.
I only caught the last 20 minutes of Ubisoft's conference, but it seemed much more lively, more full of inventive games and neat-o things that they're trying. Oh and Assassin's Creed Unity and the Rainbow 6. Always have to have the Rainbow 6.†
Finally Sony boomed out of the gate in a pell mell of game game game game with an less-than-scripted feel. The archetypal example of which was the Little Big Planet 3 team's squee smiles as they showed off their wares, and Sean Murray from Hello Games showing the awe inspiring No Man's Sky. Sony also founded the first half of the talk around letters from gamers as a way to show that they're listening, always a popular move. And the games they showed reflected a wide range, coming across as less monotonous and self-conscious than Microsoft. But then it all went off the rails when the fun stopped and the suits came on. They started talking features features features, cloud, streaming, media, TV shows and leveraging media IP for movies and etc. Far too long and frankly dull. Fortunately the suits did eventually stop and there were a couple of closers, but it could easily have been a half hour shorter, and with that tighter and better remembered.†
So it's Nintendo to close tomorrow.
What's interesting about all this (for me at least) is the dynamic of whether E3 activity is relevant or irrelevant any more. On the one hand it makes sense to talk to the world's assembled press when they're all nearby, but on the other there's the question of whether doing so in the face of all your competition is smart. It's not like, for example, Microsoft would get less coverage if they ran their own dedicated events rather than get lost in the scrum of E3.
It's also increasingly noticeable how E3 is really only about the console sector of gaming, and in a sense it could be argued that the console sector now needs the glitz and glamour to punch through our attention. You don't see any of the casual, social, tablet or PC people making much bones around E3, and many of those are doing just fine. Meanwhile despite the narrative of the PR-laden E3 world being all smiles the overall decline of the console audience continues. There is a sense of changing mindsets (increasing use of betas, for example) and understand the urgency of threats from above and below. And yet still much continues more or less unaltered for at least a decade.
All in all, as ever, E3 turns out to be a conversation all around relevance, about whether the opportunities for grand satire outweigh the net positive value, and ultimately whether there are better ways.